You are the judge and jury on this one. There are a lot of numbers to take into account here so read carefully.
A man who knew he was HIV positive admitted to having unprotected sex with dozens of women and girls as young as 14. Health officials put the number of his potential HIV victims at 75. It was discovered that at least 13 of those females had been infected with the HIV virus, including the 14 year old. In media interviews after the man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve years in prison for statutory rape and reckless endangerment, he boasted that he'd actually had up to 300 sexual partners.
Now, this man's prison sentence is coming to an end. He's just about served his time. But prosecutors in New York say Nushawn Williams has shown no remorse and has a mental abnormality that will likely lead to him to commit more crimes after he's released. The state wants to continue to hold Williams in custody under what's called the civil commitment statute. It's part of The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a federal law authorizing the indefinite civil commitment of sexual predators.
Do you think that's fair? As the old saying goes: Don't do the crime if you can't do the time - but Williams will have served his full sentence when he faces his civil confinement trial in October. Doesn't fair play require that we let him loose?
I say no. The safety of the masses is more important than the perceived rights of a convict.
At his confinement trial Williams' lawyers are likely to argue that it is unconstitutional to indefinitely hold a citizen after they've fulfilled their original sentence. They may offer up an argument of double jeopardy (second criminal punishment for the same crime) or "ex post facto (new punishment for a previous crime). Perhaps they'll come up with a new argument as those two have already been struck down by other courts.
The prosecution will surely repeat its description of Williams as a, "sex-obsessed drug user who was cited for 21 disciplinary offenses (while) in prison." They will certainly say that just a couple of months ago the United States Supreme Court once again ruled that Congress had the power to pass the law which calls for "sexually dangerous persons" to be held in a treatment facility until they "no longer represent a danger to others."
Back in 1997 the youngest victim of Nushawn Williams was quoted as saying, "I want him to stay in jail, suffering. He's slowly killing me." Today, her location is unknown and some suspect she might have died. Williams own family has criticized him. His younger sister told reporters that after Nushawn was diagnosed he made it his mission to "take people with him."
This isn't a New York centric dilemma. Some twenty states have passed laws permitting civil commitment of people who are considered likely to engage in "predatory acts of sexual violence" if released back into society. At last count there were about 2,700 such prisoners being held past their sentence date nationwide. Only about ten percent ever complete treatment and win release.
I'm okay with that. These people have already proven they can't be trusted, why should we allow them back on the street to prey on others again?
In Kansas, an admitted pedophile who admitted he'd molested children for most of his adult life was held for some 15 years past his release date. After he passed the age of 70 his health deteriorated due to diabetes and strokes. Yet he still admitted he had to urge to molest when got "stressed out." The state reported the annual tab for keeping him in a civil commitment treatment program was $185,000 a year, more than eight times the tab for a regular prison inmate.
Hey, if it keeps kids safe that's fine by me. The cost of continued incarceration seems well worth it when you compare it to the price his new victims would pay.
In Virginia, another convicted sex offender was so distraught when he learned he would be held past his release date that he castrated himself in his cell. After five years receiving treatment that he now admits helped him cope with his sex obsession, he was put under constant electronic surveillance and freed. His attorney says there have been no incidents of misbehavior since. He called the idea of holding a person in custody after completing a prison sentence, "a legal black hole."
I call it necessary for those who've habitually hunted down and damaged other people. You?
Critics call the idea of civil commitment a slippery slope and a step that greatly expands government's ability to take away our liberty.
I think it's a surefire way to keep the predators that walk among us locked away so they can't do any more harm.
Diane Dimond can be reached through her web site: www.DianeDimond.com